Infrastructure & Environment

What's the Biggest Problem with Electric Cars? The Power Cord

January 13, 2014
 

By Colin Wood

Progress in the electric vehicle market is slower than many anticipated, but there is progress. Tesla Motors continues to impress critics with the all-around quality and style of its fully electric vehicles, and Chinese electric vehicle automakers are now considering getting into the global market. One of the biggest impediments to widespread market adoption, according to a New York-based startup, is the power cord, a problem they’ve solved by creating wireless power stations for electric vehicle fleets.

The company, called HEVO Power, has entered into a contract with the Department of Public Safety at New York University (NYU) to build two charging stations for their security team’s electric vehicles. The project, funded by a grant from the NYU Office of Sustainability, is the company’s first contract, although according to the company, many other government and commercial organizations have also expressed interest. HEVO received $55,000 seed funding in June 2013, a “green grant” from NYU in August, according to Clean Tech IQ, and another $30,000 seed funding in September.

The NYU pilot will roll out by the end of the first quarter of 2014, said CEO Jeremy McCool, and they see this project as the beginning of an acceleration in the market toward increased electric vehicle adoption. “Most of the cities we talk to are hesitant to allow a broadened public infrastructure for charging and they really like the focus of wireless charging because it eliminates the hazards of cords, tripping hazards, hazards like the kiosk being damaged,” he said.

HEVO Power’s wireless charging stations resemble manhole covers and start charging when a vehicle equipped with a receiving unit stops above them. The simplicity of their product lends itself well to vehicle fleets for government, commercial, and military applications where reduced vehicle lifetime cost is a high priority, McCool said.

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“The Department of Defense (DoD) is going to have the single largest electric vehicle fleet in the world by the next couple years and they’re growing exponentially in that field because the lifetime cost matters,” he said. The company has met with the DoD about using their technology to wirelessly charge buses used for troop transport around large installations, instead of the diesel buses they now use.

If there’s a problem with a charging station, the back-end system alerts engineers immediately and the station shuts off to avoid any possible hazards. Field tests have proven that the monitoring system is effective, McCool said. “In fact, it worked so well that the vehicle manufacturer we worked with,” he said, “jumped on board and said they wanted to commercialize that technology with us and offer it as an option to their customers already even while we’re still in pilot phase.”

The biggest thing their company has learned in the pilot phase, McCool said, is that people are ready for wireless electric vehicle charging. The company has commitments from Frito-Lay and New York City-based City Harvest, as well as several other organizations they’re not ready to announce. The company has also spoken with city officials in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Miami, and Minneapolis – and all have expressed interest in the technology. McCool added that the company is also developing partnerships in Europe and Asia.

Taking a longer-term view, HEVO Power is also working on technologies they expect might gain prominence in the future, like those that could enable wireless charging on freeways and long-distance electric vehicle travel.

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